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Coastal Kitchens Go Green
Published: 02/05/2012
Quartz composite surfaces like Caesarstone uses quartz rubble left over from mining operations. It
Quartz composite surfaces like Caesarstone uses quartz rubble left over from mining operations. It's versatile, durable, and comes in a wide range of colors and patterns.

Eyeing an upgrade for your aging kitchen? A range of customizable recycled and renewable countertop surfaces offer equal parts economy and eco-friendliness.

The term "green kitchen" may summon to mind a cupboard full of natural cleaning products and a fridge packed to the gills with leafy vegetables, but if you're looking to take your kitchen's eco-friendliness up a notch, then why not start right at the top? Your countertop, that is, and thanks to a variety of green kitchen surfaces available at home retailers on the Oregon Coast, designing an environmentally friendly kitchen is now as easy on the eyes and wallet as it is on the earth.

The environment is increasingly on the minds of coastal customers shopping for new countertops, says Rich Keller, owner of Carpet One Floor & Home in Newport, which has expanded its line to include renewable bamboo countertop materials.

Buyers in the market for a kitchen upgrade are definitely curious about how products are made and manufactured, agrees Deborah Lee of Randall Lee's Flooring America in Seaside, which carries several varieties of recycled quartz countertops.

At Coaster Construction in Cannon Beach and Bergerson Tile & Stone in Astoria, options such as recycled quartz or concrete with recycled shell and glass remnants offer the eco-conscious remodeler an affordable alternative to granite, while Rosenberg Builders Supply in Tillamook also carries porcelain, glass and crystallized ash countertop surfaces.

Most of these eco-friendly surfaces are created by mixing ground, man-made and natural materials with ultra-tough adhesives. These processes often make use of post-consumer and post-production waste, lending new life to everything from recycled mirrors to mining byproducts.

All five stores carry recycled quartz countertops such as the CaesarStone line, which uses recycled mining products during its manufacturing process and offers recycled options in colors varying from earth tones to splashy primary colors.

Coastal remodelers are also taking an interest in surfaces made from renewable materials (think: derived from plants and indefinitely replaceable), which offer an affordable, sustainable alternative to traditional kitchen surfaces.

Carpet One Floor and Home carries environmentally friendly bamboo flooring and kitchen surfaces. The bamboo, which comes in light, medium and dark finishes, can be incorporated into an island or even inset into a countertop, Keller says. Such products offer customers a fun, green way to mix colors and textures in the kitchen, a trend that both Keller and Lee say is on the rise.

Environmental impact does play into customer choices more than it used to, according to coastal home retailers. "We've done quite a few homes that are green-friendly," says Bergerson co-owner Tiffany Hessel. "We have clients that are really conscious of the environment and so we try to make these things available for them."

However, in an economic climate that favors remodel over new purchases and economy over just about anything, cost and practicality are still paramount. Customers planning a remodel are often looking to trade up in quality, according to Rosenberg Kitchen Designer Lou Perrine, and while the idea of doing good by the planet certainly appeals, most people want a durable, attractive product above all. Recycled porcelain and glass surfaces offer a sturdy, sanitary surface that can stand up well to the rigors of heavy use, Perrine says.

"Eco-friendliness is a factor, but you have to like it at the same time," Keller says. "Just because it's a green product doesn't mean it's something someone is going to buy."

Luckily, many of these recycled products achieve the aforementioned trifecta of eco-friendliness, value and practicality. For a remodeler's money, recycled quartz is incredibly tough and requires no finishing seal. It's also impervious to stains, heat-resistant and difficult to scratch. Recycled quartz is cheaper and less prone to cracks than granite, according to Coaster Construction's Fred Higgins, and it makes for a solid investment – a big concern with customers.

Other eco-friendly kitchen countertop materials are less hardy, but are prized for different qualities.

Bamboo requires a protecting finish and doesn't stand up to heavy use as well as other materials, but its low cost and aesthetic appeal draw customers, according to Keller.

With so many options, where's a green-minded kitchen remodeler to begin?

Keller recommends that customers do their homework and then seek out a professional who can explain the pros and cons of various materials. And no need to change your entire scheme to go green; there's variety enough among these products to suit an array of tastes, according to Perrine: "It's strictly in the eye of the beholder. If someone has an overall kitchen design and they are trying to make [an eco-friendly product] fit into that design, there's a wide variety of materials they can use."

Of course, incorporating environmentally friendly products into a kitchen design need not be an all-or-nothing proposition, say Lee and Hessel.

Hessel recommends that customers carefully consider how materials will wear, and consider incorporating less durable materials into smaller areas such as an island or a backsplash if they're concerned.

"Start slow," Deborah Lee advises. "Add in one thing at a time." Whether it's a recycled glass accent, a bamboo breakfast bar, or a vow to opt for sustainable products at next remodel, the Oregon Coast abounds with options for upping the eco-friendliness of a kitchen, no matter your budget or creative bent. - By Erin J. Bernard

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